Contributor: Emma Markland

Over interim, my group members and I traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to start a multi-year project alongside local students who are creating a virtual reality experience to better portray their daily lives. While there, we learned about South Dakota’s culture, history, and environment by visiting some of the state’s most popular destinations, like Custer State Parkwhere we saw bison and other wildlife,  Crazy Horse Memorial where we learned more about Native American culture, and Mount Rushmore. On our way to the Reservation, we drove through the Badlands to take in the beautiful views of South Dakota.

Designing By Focusing On Empathy

Our first stop on Pine Ridge was with one of our partners, Thunder Valley Community Development Center, to learn about how are working to improve health, culture, and environment for Lakota families and youth. On our 4th day, we made our way to Pine Ridge High School where we began our design work by focusing on empathy. We started our time with the students by guiding them through an introductory design thinking experience where we focused on how to best tell a story. I was surprised by how easily our groups connected as we worked with each other. The design thinking process gave us a language to talk about our views on family, spirituality and our different cultural experiences. We were able to build a strong foundation for our future work together, while also creating friendships we won’t forget. Unfortunately, our time was cut short due to snow and extremely cold temperatures. It gave us a brief glimpse into what their day-to-day life is like.

This experience has been so eye-opening for all of us and we are excited to continue the work. We may come from different backgrounds, families, and culture, but when we come together, we can empower each other to create something truly amazing.

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